TIP OF THE WEEK

The U.S. government recommends flu shots for anyone 6 months or older, since influenza hospitalizes some 200,000 people in the U.S. annually and kills 49,000 of flu-related causes, reports WebMD. Still, the site reports that myths prevail. Among them:

— You don’t need an annual shot. Viruses continually evolve, and you need the annual vaccine formulated to address that year’s riskiest strains.

— You must be inoculated by Thanksgiving. In reality, your risk is reduced if you get your shot between September and May.

— Flu comes from flu shots. No; the shots contain dead or weakened viruses.

— The vaccine is linked with autism. There’s no such connection, but you can request a non-thimerosal shot.

— Those with egg allergies must abstain. Only those with severe egg allergies may have a reaction; simply request egg-free vaccines.

DEPRESSION

Could lack of folate be causing your depression?

If you suffer from depression, could a gene mutation be keeping your body from metabolizing the folate you need to regulate your moods?

A possible link between depression and the body’s inability to synthesize the B vitamin folate is discussed by doctors in a recent Oprah.com article. While clinical trials are called for, some doctors are already prescribing doses of the methylfolate, which is easier to synthesize. A 2016 review in the American Journal of Psychiatry points to data supporting a trial regimen of methylfolate plus antidepressants, if the antidepressants seem ineffective on their own.

An estimated 33 percent of the population — and 80 percent of those with treatment-resistant depression — have the C677T MTHFR mutation, which reduces the body’s ability to absorb folate. Patients interested in learning more are encouraged to talk with their doctors.

PREVENTION

How to banish Charley horses

If you’ve ever experienced the intermittent spasms in your calf muscles known as Charley horses, you know how painful they can be.

WebMD reports the jarring but essentially harmless spasms can be caused by poor blood circulation, over-exercising, overheating, fatigue, dehydration, failure to stretch sufficiently, pinched nerves or a deficiency of magnesium or potassium. The cramps can also be side effects of certain drugs.

What can be done about them? For prevention, the site recommends remaining hydrated, eating foods high in magnesium and calcium and stretching before exercising. If you’re in the midst of a calf spasm, however, you could try putting weight on the affected leg and slightly bending your knee, or sitting with the leg straight out and pulling your toes toward your head. You might also massage or ice the spot or bathe in Epsom salt.

MUSHROOMS

Know these poisonous mushroom traits

Wild mushrooms can be delicious, and trekking through the woods to find them can be like a treasure hunt.

However, it’s important to know the difference between edible and poisonous varieties if you’re looking to add them to your diet. Every year U.S. medical facilities report some 6,000 cases of illness from poisonous mushrooms. Earlier this year, 14 people in California became seriously ill (three required liver transplants) after partaking of the so-called “Death Cap,” or Amanita phalloides mushroom.

A few common characteristics of poisonous varieties from Mushroom-appreciation.com:

— Umbrella-shaped caps

— A skirt-like ring somewhere along the stem

— Red caps or stems

— Thin, white gills

— A milk-like substance exuded by the gills

— Raised patches or markings on the cap that resemble warts, scales or dots

Experts also recommend refraining from eating any wild mushrooms raw, and identifying each potentially edible variety via three different sources before making it into a meal.

— Brandpoint